Prairie United Methodist Church
May 17, 2012
On April 20-22, 2012, the Healthy
Church Initiative Consultation Team consisting of Dennis Alexander Diane
Owen, and Pat Hinker, conducted the weekend consultation for Eden Prairie
UMC. We reviewed the congregational self-study, the report of the mystery
guest audit, and the results of the Natural Church Development (NCD)
survey. We conducted nine individual interviews with the clergy, paid
staff and various lay leaders. We held two focus groups, one with 14
persons representing a cross-section of the congregation and another with
members of the Church Ministry Council. We also received input during a
congregational gathering in which 26 people attended. We were present to
observe the Sunday morning educational time, fellowship time, and morning
worship. The Healthy Church Initiative has named five key factors to a
congregation’s effectiveness and vitality.
The consultation team used these as a lens to assess what they
heard, and to make their recommendations.
These factors are:
a clear sense of why this church exists, what they want to
accomplish, a genuine outward focus and grounded in a
set of shared values.
staff is accountable and empowered to fulfill their responsibilities in
the context of healthy relationships with lay
a future oriented church board focused on the ends, not the means of
a high level of community in which people feel connected and newcomers can
easily find their way in, excellent
that work well to facilitate ministry.
music that regardless of style, is contemporary in its execution, relevant
biblical preaching, clear understanding of
community and its needs.
a genuine excitement about the church and strong desire to invite others;
a sense of call to serve the community.
Prairie UMC is a program sized church with a membership of 469 and an
average worship attendance of 196. The church received a new pastor in
2011, Rev. Dan Schneider-Bryan. Eden Prairie UMC has a long list of
positive assets upon which to build including: a welcoming, caring, and
accepting congregation with many talented, gifted, and creative lay
persons, an intergenerational mix of people which enjoy fellowship &
acts of service together, a gifted staff, an established music and drama
program, various small group opportunities, recent advancements in the
incorporation of technology including Power Point projection, and the new
energy, people-orientation, and passion of Pastor Dan Schneider-Bryan.
the past year, the average worship attendance has risen from 188 to 196.
2011 ended with a positive net income with all apportionments paid in full
and all outstanding debt eliminated. Younger families have been attending
and several have recently joined the church. On a typical Sunday, five new
guests visit the church and are actively received by a renewed emphasis on
welcoming and sharing genuine hospitality. There is in place a committed
staff serving the infants, children, and youth of this growing church. The
people of Eden Prairie UMC seek to be inclusive and they celebrate
diversity; all are welcome. There is a profound respect for difference,
it’s a safe place to bring your questions, and each person is challenged
to explore their personal journey of faith. It’s an active spiritual
community where people are engaged in making a different in their local
community and world through various forms of service, mission, and
Eden Prairie UMC is a profoundly resourced, gifted, and healthy
congregation, there is a persistent attitude of scarcity and a feeling of
inadequacy when they compare themselves to a large cluster of
mega-churches that surround them. Looking in the rear-view mirror, some
remember well when they had close to twice the members, two full worship
services & Sunday Schools, and the service of two full-time pastors.
When asked to find themselves on the Church Lifecycle, most church
leaders identified Eden Prairie UMC as over the peak and the declining
side of the lifecycle somewhere between maturity and empty nest. It’s a
place where the church has plateaued, feels comfortable and stable, not
facing any immediate crisis, but could easily decline again and ignores
the vast surrounding population of Eden Prairie that has needs, seeks an
experience of God, and wants to connect with an authentic, relevant and
intimate community of faith. In its present state of stability and
healthy, it’s the perfect time for Eden Prairie to begin a new lifecycle
which focuses on a renewed vision, a claimed identity and seeks to
establish meaningful relationships that reach out beyond the immediate
church family into its surrounding community. The vast majority of persons
when asked: “How willing are you to change things here at your church
and how much do you think the church is willing to change as a whole?”
(with 10 being totally willing) indicated somewhere between 7-10.
are challenges that need to be faced and dealt with, but the assets,
giftedness, and surrounding opportunities for ministry far outweigh
whatever concern these challenges may pose. The faith, commitment,
generosity, and creativity of the people of Eden Prairie UMC can easily
match the demands that any challenge requires. You have affirmed over and
over again – that this is God’s family, God’s work, God’s mission
in this place. When God calls, God supplies all that is needed no matter
how insurmountable the challenge appears. Sometimes, the hardest time to
respond to God’s calling to act and change is when there is a feeling of
comfort and contentment.
Warmly, receiving and welcoming guests with an intimate
family atmosphere and genuine hospitality. You make it feel like home.
Open, inclusive and safe place for people of differing
lifestyles, ages, theological perspectives, and cultural differences.
Passionate heart for service and mission expressed locally
and throughout the world.
Strong core of leaders and committed staff
Financially stable: debt-free, balanced budget,
apportionments paid, and a growing congregational trust fund.
Clarifying your vision, claiming and sharing your unique
identity, and fostering greater participation with your community.
Volunteer recruitment, leadership development, accessibility
to ministry opportunities, and a transparent understanding of how the
organization functions collaboratively are pieces that are either weak or
Few adult spiritual faith formation opportunities.
Current communication systems, both internal and external,
are inconsistent, not reaching effectively the whole congregation or
and not making the best use of the latest technology.
While the facility is well-maintained, but it is not as
welcoming as it could be. It is cluttered. There is precious little room
for storage. The
current amount of space for programming is almost exhausted.
Claim your unique identity and
define a clear vision.
did an excellent job of visioning in 2005; it’s time to vision again. To
get clear about: who you are, what are your
values, what is God calling you to do in this time/place and with whom,
where are you headed and how are you going to get there?
By September 15th, 2012, hold a day of visioning
where congregational leaders explore the current mission, vision, and
light of the demographic information and self-study report prepared
by the HCI team. Identity the mission field and target population
that provide focus for the outreach efforts of EPUMC.
Prepare for this day of visioning by getting out into the
community and having conversations with residents, associations, clubs,
business’s, and service organizations thus expanding on the information
revealed in the self-study report to further determine needs and gaps.1
Launch the vision. Prepare a strategy to communicate to the
wider congregation the vision through various methods including sermon
series, small groups, printed and web-based articles.
Align church activities and ministry with the vision.
Incorporate conversations about the vision and strategy into Church
Council meetings on a regular and planned basis. Develop and share the
plan to align the budget process with the vision. Guide leaders
in sharing these conversations at the committee, ministry team, and task
Build upon your ministry with your
Prairie has consistently been listed as “a best place to live” by
Money Magazine. While experienced a profound population growth moving from
2,000 residents in 1960 to over 60,000 in 2000, most recently the
population of Eden Prairie has begun to decline, has grown older, and the
minority population has increased to over 20% non-white. Families living
below the poverty rate make up 4.5% of the population. Although the
population is expected to decline over the next five years, two age groups
are projected to increase in population 22-29 year olds and 55-84 year
olds. Given the changing diversity within the community, there has been a
recent sense of divisiveness. Many have affirmed that Eden Prairie UMC
offers a well-planned traditional worship experience with a highly
relational pastor aided by good music and technology. But how widely does
the worship experience appeal across generations and various spiritual
types? Given your community, is God calling you to expand your worship
offerings in response to the needs of a diverse population?
During the summer of 2012 in preparation for your visioning
day, continue to go beyond your walls in visiting and listening to your
community and research what other churches & community organizations
are already doing in the community
By your visioning day, identify those to whom God is calling
you to engage with. For whom does your heart break?
Consider reading Renovate or Die by Bob Farr or Quiet:
The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan
Cain as resources for discernment and discovery around who you are to
reach out and share the intimacy of EPUMC.
By July 2013, plan intentional outreach ‘just for them’ events
targeting your community audience
Develop a marketing plan and communication strategy by January 2013
to raise awareness, create your
“brand” around a “place called home” (or something that
identifies and invites), and invite those you are
As part of the planning for marketing and communication,
develop a task force who evaluates current communication methods and makes
recommendations for change or improvement as the overall strategy is
It should include signage that is more visibly seen from the
road and at places to provide clear direction.
Website improvements that include elements of your vision,
who you are trying to reach, your unique identity, and what you have to
offer. Begin using other social media tools to reach out to others.
Consider a short-term contract to engage a professional webmaster to
complete this work.
Include a technology audit to determine what technology
updates are needed in all ministry areas. This is closely linked to
marketing and communication efforts but could easily be addressed in the
By Fall 2013 you will have two distinctive and different worship
services in place: one designed to appeal to the more traditional
Sunday worshipper not unlike your current service and another service
designed to reach new people in your community. The more
traditional Sunday service will have many of the same elements that are
now in place but may incorporate new and different elements
to ensure the service is current and relevant. The second service will be
designed as a way of offering a new audience a worship
experience that may have a different style and may be offered at a
different time – all to invite and attract new people. This may require
some degree of additional staffing needed to address the unique
requirements of the new audience. A possible source of start-up
funding could be an “Investing in Congregations” grant.2
In meeting with members and staff of the church, it was clear that
individuals felt that the second service on Sunday morning did not have
the same energy and critical mass as the first service. The consulting
team also experienced this difference when attending both services. This
was further reinforced by the Faith Perceptions feedback. Although the
second service was not ineffective, the consulting team felt that it was
redundant and a better use of the resources – time and energy of those
participating in the service – could be focused elsewhere.
way forward: To reach the recommended goal of two distinctive services,
consider . . .
You currently have one service from May – October of the
year. Do not return to two services in October but maintain one service.
This will release resources to begin the work of preparing for a
distinctive second service.
As you survey the community and engage in the visioning
process, you will begin to discover individuals and groups that may be
seeking a church home or a different worship opportunity. This discovery
could inform the creation of the alternative and different worship
experience, one that would respond to the needs of these seekers in
addition to the members of EPUMC. Also consider researching other
successful alternative worship services that may guide you in the
development of this new service. There are many other options in the metro
that could provide a platform for new service offerings – style, day,
time - in Eden Prairie.
As you survey and vision, you may discover the need to make
subtle changes to the more traditional Sunday service. This service
appeals to a wide range of individuals, members and visitors, but can you
try new elements at this service that could possibly help you test
elements for an alternative service? What can you learn from the Faith
Perceptions survey that will guide you in making improvements in this
As you work with one service on Sunday, you will have the
opportunity to develop adult faith formation opportunities. Again,
resources will become available during the time that you have one service
on Sunday mornings and these resources can be deployed to a study, class,
and small group faith formation options.
By January 2014, develop a unique signature ministry with the
community, something that EPUMC will
known for throughout the community. Do this in partnership with the
opportunities to serve are compelling to the passions of individual
members, identity a ministry
the greater congregation can rally around and that supports the vision of
Develop a culture of shared
have created an excellent model for recruiting, training, collaborating
and rotation with a three-term Lay Leader Office. This model serves you
well. But there are other offices that are unfilled, some persons who are
overcommitted and tired, staff that are working overtime and assigned to
tasks that members could be doing. New persons can have
finding places where their skills/talents are valued and trying to enter
into an established group can prove troublesome for them. A culture and
systems of shared ministry is needed.
By January 2013, assess and create avenues of access to new
opportunities for hands-on ministry opportunities that supports your
Evaluate whether current committees and teams adequately
support the emerging vision. Consider short-term actions teams that allow
Develop a leadership development process.
Carefully communicate the structure, leadership
opportunities, and the process for participating.
Consider a training orientation annually for all leaders and
committee members to share vision, expectations, and create alignment
around the work of the teams.
Consider a ministry fair where others can learn more about
the opportunities to serve and learn at EPUMC.
Create ways that people can discover, claim, and exercise
their unique spiritual gifts for ministry.
Consider a spiritual gifts inventory process that goes
beyond the assessment stage and connects people’s passion and gifts with
the opportunities to serve.
Don’t forget the power of kids to lead worship, greet,
usher, and serve. One first-time guest wrote: “I
always like it when kids say good morning….kids can’t fake it.”
By March 2013, develop an assimilation process for guests,
regular participants, and new members
Each ministry area would develop a system of inviting and
assimilating new people into their mission. (This would include choirs,
groups, teams, committees.)
Read the book: Fusion: Turning First-time Guests into
Fully-engaged Members by Nelson Searcy.
Evaluate current staff structure in light of vision and all
recommendations by January 2013.
Add the shared ministry coordinator functions within your
staffing configuration. A possible source of start-up funding could be an
“Investing in Congregations” grant.
The Staff Parish Relations Committee needs to review job
descriptions to determine if certain roles and responsibilities need
shifting to members and ministry teams. Make sure you have structured
expectations and responsibilities realistically and fairly.
Are there special events or projects that need the attention
of a short term action team such as
supplies and historical documents, handling the Wednesday night “souper
suppers”, supporting women’s ministry events? It would appear that
these types of events are sometimes shifted to staff already working at or
Examine if the current lay caring ministry (Befrienders) is
working closely with the pastoral care provided by Pastor Dan. How can
more members become involved in providing care to the members/friends of
Develop a spiritual formation
system for children, youth, confirmands and adults.
recent Natural Church Development survey indicated that your minimum
factor was Passionate Spirituality. Rather than looking at your Discipling
System within “segregated age segments”, it would be helpful to look
at your system as a continuous whole from birth to death. How do we help
people develop faith all along the age spectrum and in various settings -
linking what we do together as a whole? Just as in worship, how does the
staff collaborate together to grow disciples? How do we also accommodate
various spiritual types in our system? One of the most meaningful insights
made by a 41-year old female first-time guest to Eden Prairie UMC was
“If felt more like a church for people that have been attending for a
long time than a place where new people could explore their faith.”
the program year 2012-2013:
Affirm the value of spiritual formation for all ages and
utilize Christian Education Field Staff to help you work out specific
methodologies for coordinated, meaningful and active participation.
Review the roles and responsibilities of staff and members
to ensure that the best possible structure is in place for aligning and
accomplishing an effective, collaborative ministry among children, youth,
and their families.
Develop a team that is specifically focused on a plan of
engagement for graduating confirmands.
Develop and implement a variety of adult faith formation
experiences, for varying spiritual types (as identified by the work of
Ware & Dan Dick3), at varying times, both short and
long term and low and high commitment. Encourage development of small
groups around a shared interest or issue that facilitates their spiritual
journey and faith development. This could include such offerings
short-term Bible and book studies, Companions in Christ, Walk to Emmaus,
Covenant Discipleship groups, Disciple Bible Study,
and centering prayer.
Consider forming spiritual groups within each of the four
quadrants of Covenant Discipleship model:
compassion, worship, and justice; also consider forming a Covenant
Discipleship group for church leaders.
Consider guiding current groups (committees, teams, choirs,
etc.) to include practices that would provide spiritual nurture and faith
formation in addition to carrying out their specific ministry.
the Kaleidoscope Bible Study and Mutual Invitation4 process to
lead this faith formation time.
Develop intergenerational spiritual formation experiences,
such as family retreat weekend, camping, and intergenerational learning
Align plans for facility
improvements with your emerging vision and strategic plan
to see your property through the eyes of your first time guests. Is your
space inviting, warm, attractive,
organized, uncluttered? Is there room for all the programming you would
like to do? Have you made your
campus which includes a labyrinth, amphitheater, play area, and wooded
grounds available to the
In The Short-term: (Within the next year)
Develop strategy for storage options, and make building more
inviting by de-cluttering and updating décor to appeal to your target
Consider the outdoor spaces that are being underutilized
such as the labyrinth, amphitheater, play area, and wooded acreage. What
can you do to improve these spaces and make them available for reaching
out to the community? Consider joining the move to urban gardens by
offering community garden plots on your property and joining the “Living
Green” environmental movement within the city.
Evaluate the current use of space within the building and
determine if adjustments in how space is currently used could increase
capacity and improve your overall ministry.
In The Long-term: (Within two years)
Reconstitute a building committee to examine space needs to
accommodate programing aligned with your emerging vision, including
additional meeting areas/classroom space, expansion of the fellowship
hall, air conditioning the whole building, addressing issues of
accessibility, confidential office space, and larger long-term storage.
Also consider the needs of the drama ministry, an exciting
new ministry that could engage the community if the appropriate space and
equipment were provided.
believe the Eden Prairie UMC is an engaged, healthy, resourced
congregation with great potential to serve with its community, making a
difference in the lives of countless persons.
We also believe that the authentic welcome, genuine acceptance,
unconditional love, and that second-home feel that guests are receiving
when they first visit Eden Prairie are what many people in the community
need and are searching for.
are a community of faith that “walks its talk”, you live out your
values; you become God’s love in the world. We see it in your support
and involvement with PROP, your public declaration and work as a
Reconciling Congregation, your witness in serving free-trade coffee, all
the small groups and classes dedicated to expanded study & learning
which then leads you to action, your stewardship and care for the earth,
your youth’s concern for poverty and homelessness and your active
participation in ecumenical ministries which fosters greater understanding
of persons of other faiths. But most importantly, through and in your
worship, service, music, fellowship, small groups, in your sense of
intimacy & caring for one another and in the quietness and safety of
your setting – people do have an awesome experience of God. Some have
called your church the best-kept secret of Eden Prairie. It’s time to
let people in on the secret and invite them to share in the uniqueness
of all that the Eden Prairie Church has to offer.
have found your leadership to be both future and outward orientated, while
they recognize this present state of stability – they are not being
complacent. They know without a renewed vision and a strategic plan for
the future Eden Prairie Church could easily begin to decline. The Healthy
Church Initiative Team has done an outstanding job of prayer, self-study,
listening, communications, fostering greater ownership, and discerning
God’s call to the future. The arrival of Pastor Dan has brought renewed
energy and enthusiasm, a personal people-centered style, and a passion to
help the church move positively into the future for which God is calling
it. Therefore many see this moment of strength as the right time to trust
God, to step out in faith, to change and to begin a new lifecycle of
outreach, vitality, greater healthy, focused mission, and growth. This
plan calls you once again be out in your community striving to have holy
conversations, listening to neighbors, serving
with them to address felt-needs, and inviting them to share in the
goodness of the Eden Prairie Church. Growth is a by-product of excellence
in mission, vision, and effective ministry. Growth is not a threat to
intimacy; growing congregations find new ways for people to continue to
experience intimacy in various size groups, activities, and service.
Accountability and evaluation are elements of a healthy congregation;
therefore we expect Eden Prairie UMC to have and monitor growth targets.
We understand that the Eden Prairie community can be a place of
transitions – with people coming and going. Still our hope for you is
that over the next five years your average worship attendance will grow by
8% per year thus by the end of 2017 your average worship attendance would
exceed 250. Likewise, we hope you would always add new and varied small
groups to your offerings, remembering that a church needs new and various
size groups where people can form relationships and experience that
transforming love of God.
Consider neighborhood walks, windshield tours, group bike rides and
hosting community focus groups. Call together the members of EPUMC who already
live in the mission field and conduct a focus group with them
asking about hurts, hopes, and needs of the community and who else in the community the
church should be talking with. Survey the existing
congregations within Eden Prairie, asking them what ministries/services they are providing to the residents
of your mission field.
There is an Annual Investing in Congregations Grant Cycle which
begins in June with grant deadlines due by end of October 2012. Please refer to the MN
Annual Conference website for details www.minnesotaumc.org
look under Our Ministry: Congregational Development.
Discovery Your Spiritual Type by Corrine Ware; A Shifting
Spirituality: What Newcomers Are Looking For & Spiritual
Diversity Worksheet by Dan Dick
Kaleidoscope Bible Study and Mutual Invitation Sheets Attached